Much as I dislike spending time away from my lovely man, I am looking forward to my German interlude – teaching Tango, spending time with my daughter Yolanda, my niece Rebecca and other friends, visiting new Tango scenes and my sister and her family.
On March 3rd, I board the flight from Catania to Berlin. As soon as I step on the plane, I start sneezing. It takes me 12 hours to accept that it’s not an allergy but a full-blown flu, when I start to feel faint walking up some stairs during the shopping spree that Yolanda and I had embarked on to find a costume for the themed Tango party the following Wednesday. With Yoli’s help, I drag myself to Ines’s where I fall into bed for the next couple of days. What a bummer, but the Tango Lab will just have to start without me…
Monday morning, I pack my bags and take the train to the Wendland, where the Tango Lab is in an old water mill, in the middle of nowhere. After a day’s rest there, I’m back to normal and immerse myself in the flow of group- and private lessons and dancing in the evenings. The themed party (the 1920’s) is a great success with everyone making a big effort to dress up imaginatively.
Dressing up is not my forte. It usually estranges me from myself, and I don’t like it. This time it had the added weird spin of suddenly feeling like a man in women’s clothes. I’ve never felt masculine, despite people mistaking me for a boy in childhood and even now sometimes address me with ‘can I help you, sir?’ in shops (can you believe it? I mean how big must boobs be before they are noticed???). But wearing this strange wig, and make-up too, somehow catapulted me into a different mode. It was very disconcerting and I was glad to return to myself when I went to bed!
Here is a Facebook photo of the Tango teacher team, taken by Elzbieta Petryka. I’m the one smoking a cigarette, in case you don’t recognize me!
I love the work at Proitze, the series of private lessons are always a real treat, with people opening up and working with great concentration. Thank you to everyone who gave me their trust
We had one calm and quiet day after the Tango lab, before Ines and I set off on a Tango road trip through Germany, from the very north (Lübeck) to the very south (Staufen). We were surprised to find so many people in our workshop in Lübeck who we knew already from teaching at the Tango Lab – it was like coming home! We were hosted and taken care of beautifully, and we even had some time to stroll through Lübeck for a few hours the following day.
Our next stop was with my sister’s family in Köln, where we caught up with news, admired how tall my nephews and niece had grown since I last saw them, and spent a day sightseeing in the city where I grew up. We cycled along the Rhein to the cathedral, scrambled up all 533 steps to the top of the tower and amused ourselves over lunch in an old pub in the city centre.
(Spot the mistakes!?!)
The following day, we set off for Staufen, a picturesque little town near the Swiss border, which has a very rapidly expanding Tango community, only in its third year. Through a serious of coincidences, they had come in touch with a collector of Bandoneons who had run out of space in his own house and was in search of a town who would like to host a Bandoneon museum. Within a short time, the bureaucratic hurdles were jumped and the town provided a room. An enthusiastic Tanguero laid a dance floor, others made shelves etc., so now they have a home for their Tango club that doubles up as a Bandoneon museum!
Those who know how to play a bandoneon are allowed to take instruments off the shelves and play them. So I have the incredible privilege of playing ‘La Amiga Negra’, the Bandoneon that Astor Piazzolla used to play when he came to give concerts in Kirchzarten from 1984 onwards. Her bellows are a bit wheezy, but the reeds have a sweet sound and there are more buttons than on my bandoneon. If I can’t produce Piazzolla’s sound, maybe at least I can imitate his facial expression?
In a town of under 8000 inhabitants (about the size of Totnes), with four regular evenings of Tango plus weekends with visiting teachers, the dance scene reminds me very much of the beginnings of Tango in Totnes. In addition to that, the Staufen Bandoneon Museum is a must for every Tango dancer and musician on their way down South through Germany!
We have one more day left before my flight leaves from Basel, so we make a spontaneous decision to visit Guggi and Pascal an their son Aurin on their newly acquired piece of land right on the swiss/german border. A little one-roomed house and a couple of sheds were already on the land, and they now painstakingly restore them. Pulling them down completely would lose them the right to have a dwelling there, so it has to be done one wall at a time. We spend the afternoon pottering in the tentative spring sun, playing with Aurin and helping a little with building work, before heading to their flat in the centre of Basel for the night.
All through my stay in Germany, Etna has been bubbling away, and this week with some rather large eruptions, so that it’s a bit touch and go whether I will get to Catania or be diverted to Palermo instead. The day before, Catania’s airport was closed in order to clean the runways from the volcanic ashes…
But all goes well, we see the flowing lava from above as we pass the volcano. With only one hour’s delay, we touch down on the second attempt and I’m back in the arms of my special man
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